Rail Replacement bus timetables – balancing customer outcomes and service efficiency

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Rail Replacement bus timetables – balancing customer outcomes and service efficiency

The need for buses to replace train services is a necessary evil when running a public transport network. Train assets require maintenance and to undertake such work, train services are usually suspended, and rail replacement buses are deployed to keep people moving.

First and foremost, there are significant inherent differences between a bus and train. Let’s explore a few:

  • Numbers. Trains can carry around 1,400 passengers, while a standard bus will usually max out at 60 passengers
  • Network. Trains operate on a dedicated closed network, while buses work in an open road network that often experience uncontrollable incidents and congestion
  • Stuck in their tracks: Trains are unable to deviate from a path where buses can be rerouted and offer greater flexibility
  • Travel times: The travel time of a bus will almost always take longer than the comparable train service

 

Factors to consider

When deciding the approach to creating your rail replacement bus timetable, there are a few factors that will help you to select the most appropriate approach. These factors include:

  • The train frequency
  • The forecast number of passengers to be moved by hour or shorter if there is a bias to the demand within the hour
  • Kerbside space and capacity
  • The bus stop location – is it easily reached and accessible?
  • Customer expectations – it is important to ensure customers are comfortable at the bus stop and not waiting too long for connecting services

 

In some cases, you may have to create a timetable that accommodates both a frequency and a connection approach at various times of the day. Especially when the number of train services reduce and passenger numbers dwindle compared to the peak hours. To explore this a little further, we provide a scenario to demonstrate the replacement bus options:

 

Scenario

 

Trains Arrive at:

Pax’s

Train Arrives

7:00

7:10

7:20

7:30

7:40

7:50

 

Passengers incl. Walk Ups

50

80

90

80

70

70

440

 

Transfer time from the train to the replacement bus stop is around 3 minutes.

 

Approach Option

 

Option 1 – Connection Approach

Train Arrives

7:00

7:10

7:20

7:30

7:40

7:50

Bus Departure Time

7:05

7:15

7:25

7:35

7:45

7:55

Number of Buses

1

2

2

2

2

2

 

This approach tries to mirror the train arrivals with an offset of five minutes to enable customers to make their way to the bus stop.

 

 

Option 2 – Frequency & Connection Approach

Train Arrives

7:00

7:10

7:20

7:30

7:40

7:50

Bus Departure

7:05

7:15

7:20

7:25

7:30

7:35

7:40

7:45

7:50

7:55

8:00

Number of Buses

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

 

This approach attempts to mirror the train arrivals while maintaining some meaningful frequency.

 

Option 3 – Frequency Approach

Train Arrives

7:00

7:10

7:20

7:30

7:40

7:50

Bus Departure

7:06

7:12

7:18

7:24

7:30

7:36

7:42

7:48

7:54

8:00

Number of Buses

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

1

 

The approach uses a straight frequency approach, a bus every 6 minutes.

 

Summary and suggested approach

 

The table below is a summary of the options comparing the number of trips and the total passenger capacities.

 

 

Option 1

Option 2

Option 3

Demand

440

Number of Buses (Trips)

11

11

10

Capacity

550

550

500

 

In this scenario, we need to accommodate 440 passengers over an hour, and assuming a maximum passenger load of 50 per bus, we require a minimum of nine trips.

 

Utilising the frequency approach is the most effective way to plan this operation. To round the frequency to a number that multiplies nicely to reach 60, we chose a service every 6 minutes. Meaning we would have 10 trips every hour and creates a nice memory headway for customers to easily remember. The following timetable shows how this would look.

 

Screenshot taken from the Transport Toolkit Timetable Creator

 

The frequency approach means no passenger should wait more than 6 minutes for a service and it also saves one peak trip compared to the other approaches.

 

How can we help?

 

Need a hand creating rail a replacement bus timetable? Check out our range of easy to use digital tools that take the hard work out of transport planning, saving you time and money.

 

For more information on this article, please contact us at INFO@TRANSPORTTOOLKIT.COM

 

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